Early August news roundup.
The Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond announced a shake up of Franchise arrangements on August 5 and said:
“The Government is committed to a major reform of rail franchising that will benefit passengers and taxpayers alike. In preparing our policies we have paid careful attention to the views the rail industry, and others, have expressed to us. Our reforms will create longer, less prescriptive franchises that will give the industry more freedom to innovate, address passenger needs, and more incentive to invest.
The reforms will also help achieve the radical efficiency changes needed for a sustainable lower cost railway for the long term. This will include a more equitable balance of risk between the public and private sectors, including replacement of the ‘cap and collar’ revenue support mechanism with one linked to economic indicators. There will also be stronger emphasis on partnership and closer working between train operators and their local Network Rail Route teams, allowing integrated decision-making which benefits passengers and drives out cost.
These new type of rail franchises will replace existing ones, as and when they expire, and I have today published a comprehensive forward timetable for the re-letting of rail franchises that represents a deliverable and balanced programme. My aim in doing so is to give the market clarity about the timing of the opportunities that will arise. In producing this timetable, I have had regard to the impact on bidders and their sub-contractors of trying to compete for too many franchises at once, and the likely reduction in value for money to the taxpayer that would result.
As I have already announced, the new Inter City West Coast franchise will commence in December 2012, with an Invitation to Tender (ITT) issued to the pre-qualified bidders in January 2012.
Following First Group’s decision not to exercise its contractual entitlement to take up a 3-year extension on its existing Greater Western contract from 2013, this will now be the next long-distance franchise to come to market, with the new franchise commencing in April 2013, instead of 2016 as originally planned.
As a result, and to avoid having to offer more than one long-distance franchise competition at the same time, with possible consequences for taxpayer value, the new Inter City East Coast franchise will commence in December 2013.
Turning to commuter franchises, there is no change in my plans for Essex Thameside, with the new 15 year contract due to commence in May 2013. The same is true for South Eastern, where the new franchise will start in April 2014.
In light of the likely delivery timescales for Thameslink rolling stock, I judge it right to exercise my contractual entitlement to bring forward the start of a new franchise to September 2013. The franchise is likely to be shorter than 15 years, with a focus on managing services through the major Thameslink infrastructure upgrade. It would then be re-let at the end of the project.
To accommodate the changed dates for Thameslink and Inter City East Coast, I intend to move the start of the long term 15 year Greater Anglia franchise to July 2014, exercising the 12 month extension that is included in to the short franchise that is currently being competed.
I have concluded an agreement with First Keolis TransPennine Express (TPE) which extends the current franchise. The extension incorporates the flexibility to terminate the franchise between April 2014 and March 2015. This flexibility could allow the start dates for the new Northern and TransPennine franchises to be aligned in April 2014, by also exercising the short extension provision in the current Northern franchise.
Having both existing franchises end at the same date could allow for these franchises to be combined, or split in different ways. I will be considering the optimal configuration and intend to seek views on the optimum structure from local interested parties. The timescales outlined above will allow for proper consultation and consideration of the possibilities of a radical restructuring in the Northern/TPE area.
In summary, Great Western and Thameslink have come forward (by 35 months and 18 months respectively), the Northern and TPE franchises could now be aligned with a start date of April 2014 - so that we have greater flexibility in re-letting - and two other franchises (Inter City East Coast and Greater Anglia) have been pushed back to accommodate the acceleration of Great Western and Thameslink. Three franchises (Inter City West Coast, South Eastern and Essex Thameside) remain unchanged.
I have already been clear that not all of these franchises will look the same. I believe in horses for courses and a pragmatic, not dogmatic, approach. I will be guided by what drives value for the taxpayer and service for the passenger on each individual franchise.
Some commentators have suggested this represents a huge programme of work and a major culture shift in Government. I agree with them. It is arguably the biggest programme of franchising since the industry was originally privatised. But it is also a major programme – and a significant culture shift – for bidders. There should be no doubt about our determination to deliver on this agenda, nor the importance of managing it properly.
Revising the programme in this way, while remaining clear about our objectives reflects my view that success depends on having a crystal-clear and unwavering strategy, coupled with a willingness and ability to be agile and tactical in implementing it. The end result of this work will be a new rail franchising system that delivers better outcomes for passengers and better value for money for taxpayers.
Lord Sebastian Coe, Olympian Colin Jackson CBE and Minister for Sport and the Olympics Hugh Robertson joined Eurostar in welcoming hundreds of Olympic fans and athletes from across Europe to London’s St Pancras International station on July 27 as the 2012 host city marks the start of the ‘One year to go’ celebrations.
Over the last few months, thousands of Olympic fans entered competitions to win the chance to be part of Eurostar’s ‘One year to go’ celebrations. Arriving from countries including France, and Belgium, competition winners and athletes will be joined by winners from the UK to be greeted by Seb Coe and Colin Jackson and join them in having their foot prints cast in clay as they symbolically mark the first steps on the way to the 2012 Games.
Following a welcome speeches from Seb Coe and the Olympic Minister, Hugh Robertson, winners were transported across London to a celebration lunch held at an iconic London restaurant with stunning views over the Olympic Park where Colin Jackson will be their host for the remainder of their unique experience.
Eurostar are also the official International Rail Services Provider to the Games and one could argue that they are the only international passenger rail operator serving London. Industry whispers suggest that the DB German ICE train may run some services to and from St. Pancras during the Games having now applied for safety approval for the trains. DB has already announced that they intend to operate regular services from 2013 so running preview services in a years time is not out of the question.
Eurostar are offering up to 30% off Standard Premier tickets to Disneyland Paris until midnight on Wednesday 10 August. All Disney fans need to do to get a treat is booking on www.eurostar.com and use the promotion code MLVSPLON-30% for travel from St Pancras International or MLVSPASI-30% for travel from Ashford International.
This class of travel offers a light meal and a selection of magazines and is relaxing way to start a holiday. Tickets for travel from London St Pancras International and Ashford International to Disneyland Paris start from £69 return in Standard and £159 return in Standard Premier and can be booked up to 4 months in advance.
For more information, to book Eurostar tickets or purchase Eurostar gift vouchers visit www.eurostar.com or call 08432 186 186.
Southeastern, operators of the Hitachi 140mph ‘Javelin’ trains between Kent and St. Pancras have given a years notice to passengers that the Olympics will mean a rethink for their regular travellers. They are expecting tens of thousands of passengers to use their trains to get to the Olympic Games venues in South East London and will be operating a special timetable to carry the extra passengers. They have also named several of their ‘Javelins’ after UK Olympians such as Rebecca Adlington.
The Olympic arrangements seem a far cry from six years ago when a Network Southeast liveried class 87 was decorated with a ‘Back The Bid London 2012’ slogan!
Details can be found on www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/olympics
Southeastern Trains has announced that their Javelins will be timetabled to serve Sandwich and Deal on the Kent coast from September. They served Sandwich for the Open Golf Championships last month and carried around 37000 passengers.
The high speed trains will serve Deal and Sandwich thanks to support of Kent County Council from the 5 September, one month earlier than planned. It has also been announced that additional high speed services at weekends from Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September, in time for the opening of Westfield Stratford City shopping centre.
Transport Minister Norman Baker said, “Domestic high speed trains have already had a positive impact by introducing passengers from Kent fast and convenient access to central London – it is good news that Kent County Council and Southeastern have reached an agreement so that these services can be extended.”
The new services will boost business confidence and support new employment opportunities in East Kent at the same time as Pfizer withdraws from the area. Three new services will leave Sandwich at 05:50, 06:18 and 06:50, calling at Deal six minutes later with two return leaving St Pancras International at 17:40 and 18:40. The new services will operate Monday to Friday and will take approximately 90 minutes, 45 minutes faster than existing services.
Vince Lucas, service delivery director said, “These new services will be a real benefit for the local economy and encourage people and business to look at the opportunities in East Kent. We have worked closely with Kent County Council, Department for Transport and Network Rail and Kent MPs to get these services introduced as quickly as possible. It is testament to everyone’s commitment to the area that we have managed to introduce these earlier than planned.”
“The launch of these services was a specific recommendation of the first report to Ministers by the Sandwich Economic Development Task Force. We knew it was vital to put East Kent on the high speed map because the big question asked by potential investors in the Pfizer site is, ‘What’s the connectivity like?’ By slashing the journey time to London to approximately 90 minutes, the site is now as close to the capital as Cambridge and Oxford.”
Additional early morning weekend services have also been announced to help passengers get to the new Westfield Stratford City, due to open on 13 September. From Saturday 10 September there will be additional services departing from Faversham (06:58), Margate (06:53) and Dover Priory (07:44) as well as services from St Pancras International to Faversham (06:55), Margate (07:42) and Dover Priory (08:12). All these services will call at Stratford International. Also starting on Sunday 11 September will be an additional service departing Ashford International at 07:43.
Vince Lucas continued, “These new services reflect feedback from passengers and stakeholders who wish to get into London early on weekends. On Saturdays there was a gap in the service, which was required for track inspections which are no longer carried out at this time, so we have taken the opportunity to run another service. On Sundays it was not possible to get into St Pancras International much before 9am so this new service will help ensure those early risers can get in before 8.30!”
Full details can be found on www.southeasternrailway.co.uk
The new western concourse is taking shape at Kings Cross and was providing welcome cover from heavy rain by the new entrance to the Underground on July 4. It is expected to open later this year and will provide a huge new covered waiting area extending towards St. Pancras for passengers making Kings Cross less congested. The project should be completed in time for the Olympics in 12 months time.
Farringdon will become a huge interchange when Crossrail is completed. It is currently being upgraded to cater for 12 car trains from December this year. This means that the platform extensions also have to be completed by then. The new trainshed roof is mid way to being finished, being constructed northwards from the centre of the station. The new passenger bridges within the listed old trainshed have been completed as have wider stairs and new lifts.
The 10 car Pendolinos to be introduced next year will help provide thousands of more seats every day. They will only be able to run once all stations they call at can accommodate the longer trains. Platform extensions are being built at eight stations including Warrington Bank Quay, Watford Junction and Wolverhampton.
Windows have been modernised at Chester and Portsmouth Harbour stations during July. These will provide more protection and a cleaner, brighter environment for passengers at these old stations.
This is a refund scheme for passengers when their train is delayed and applies to all ticket holders, including seasons, and will entitle passengers to claim compensation if any journey is delayed by more than 30 minutes.
The ‘Delay Repay’ scheme is already in place with many other operators and gives compensation of 50% of the portion of the fare for that journey if a passenger is delayed by 30 minutes or more. It gives 100% of the fare for that journey if delayed by over an hour.
Passengers will be able to make claims either online or via a freepost leaflet available at stations. Compensation is paid in rail travel vouchers that can be used as payment towards another UK rail ticket, including season tickets in the next 12 months.
Passengers must claim compensation within 28 days of the delay, however it was caused, and must provide proof of travel which could be the original ticket, a ticket receipt, a copy of your season ticket, or, if you are a registered Oyster pay as you go user, a journey receipt.
Network Rail is moving 3000 staff to a new HQ building adjacent to Milton Keynes station in a year’s time. The companies Development Manager Howard Penstone, told a meeting in Milton Keynes that the £110m development was on schedule.
The staff will be housed in four blocks linked by internal bridges and able to enjoy a convenience store and coffee bar – all located behind a security gate. The company hope to save £20m a year by locating staff in one location. How the devolution into regions, each with it’s own managing directors and staff, located within their region will affect this plan is unclear at the moment.
DB Schenker Rail has operated the first ever European-sized freight train on the High-Speed Channel Tunnel rail link to London on July 23. The wagons contained in the train provide a larger capacity than current UK wagons because they can carry larger curtain-sided swap-body trailers, which have an internal height of three metres which are common in Europe.
This train can only be used on HS1 in the UK because it is the only European-sized rail route in the country. The first journey saw two wagons from Spanish logistics operator Transfesa and four European-sized swap bodies go from Dollands Moor near Folkestone to a rail terminal in East London at the weekend.
DB Schenker Rail (UK) CEO Alain Thauvette said: “This rail freight service is a historic milestone for European rail freight. This will increase modal shift between road to rail across Europe.” Transfesa CEO Bernd Hullerum added: “This is a great opportunity for our automotive customers to link their European plants using the same equipment used for this trial, as it offers the possibility to load up to 96cu metres in a curtain-sided unit, which is key for this industry.”